It was do or die time for the Huskies soccer team last week with the team facing some must-win games to secure a trip to district playoffs. Their first match saw the team play host to reigning league champion Toppenish, but the Wildcats defense proved to be resilient and held the Huskies to one goal for a 1-3 loss. Toppenish didn't take much time at all to get on the board when Armando Robles made a crazy shot in the eighth minute. The shot was a bit too high, bounced off the top bar of the goalpost into the ground but had enough momentum to roll deep enough for a score. Othello head coach Bernie Garza said that type of goal doesn't happen every day, but his defense still could have prevented it. "How many times is that going to happen," Garza asked, adding that he told his defenders they made a mistake in the play. "If you're on your line, all you need to do is jump up and save it ... it's a no-no for a keeper if you're caught off your line." Othello's Christian Herrera answered back with a nice goal after juking a Toppenish defender for a one-on-one attempt with their goalkeeper. He nailed the goal and Garza said Herrera showed a lot of heart to help his team with a score while just returning from a foot injury. "He mustered all he could and that was a nice goal," he said. "Basically, that was all his effort. He passed the defender, rushed him and made him lose his balance ... that was just all him, all hustle." The Huskies had plenty of opportunities to take the lead in the last 20 minutes of the half, including two corner kicks and set piece plays. But, like many times this season, Othello had trouble capitalizing on these opportunities. "We're not a pushover team, we're a good quality team, but we just can't seem to get that finish," Garza said. "We have good players, but they're not used to playing with each other." Toppenish got off to a quick start in the second half and took the lead in the 43rd minute with a goal by Servando Fuentes. About five minutes later, sophomore Jacob Quiroz took a hard foul in the goal box and had a chance to tie it up again with a penalty kick. Toppenish's goalie made the save, though, and Garza said this was a big momentum shift in their favor. "The game changer was that penalty save," he said. "That killed it ... and that would have totally changed things around." Toppenish defenders were able to hold Othello's stepped-up attack and the Wildcats scored one more insurance goal in the 75th minute to end the Huskies' chances. "They've got some fast guys on defense," Garza said. "They've got guys who can get the ball, control it and distribute to the midfield to create the attack." With the loss, the Huskies went into their final two games of the season with a 3-4 league record and their chances of making playoffs slipping away.
OHS keeps playoff hopes alive with late goal against EV It was the last home game of the regular season so it was appropriate that senior Rodrigo Zuniga was the one to score the late goal to give the Huskies the win and keep their playoff chances alive. The score was 2-2 after a hectic period in the second half with both teams scoring and at the 78th minute, Zuniga was able to squeeze in the game-winning shot after Herrera made a nice lead pass to set up his breakaway goal. Knowing the game was on the line and with their playoff hopes fading quickly, Zuniga said he was proud of his team for keeping focused on working together to make the shot happen. "As a team, we had to work together and work hard every time," Zuniga said. "It has 90 minutes and in two minutes, anything can happen and that's what we did. We kept our head up and scored a goal at the last minute." Zuniga said his coach told the team at halftime to stay positive and keep their goal of staying alive to reach the playoffs in their minds. Perhaps that's what drove the Huskies to fight hard toward the end of the April 25 match. "He told us that everything's possible and we need to keep our hopes up to beat Selah," he said. Another senior, Alec Alvarez, scored the first goal on a fluke play where he tossed the ball at his teammates in front of the East Valley goal, but it somehow managed to bounce over everyone's heads and into the net. Neither team scored the rest of the first half and Coach Garza said his team was fairly fortunate the Red Devils didn't do anything to threaten their lead in the last 30 minutes of the half. "We were still playing sloppy and we were just lucky they can't shoot," Garza said about their opponent. In the 45th minute, sophomore Hugo Martinez blasted one in from long range right over East Valley goalie Gage Fereday to build the lead to 2-0, but three minutes later, Jesus Benitez answered back for the Devils. Then in the 65th minute, East Valley tied the game and put the pressure on the Huskies to prevent overtime. Fortunately, the Huskies avoided the shootout situation with Zuniga's goal and can now breathe a little easier with a 4-4 record going into their final regular season match at Selah. Garza said the team will need to have a bit of luck on their side to improve their chances of making playoffs and will need to play a cleaner game against a tougher opponent in the Vikings. "We had to win the day and I'm not too sure right now ... but even if we lose Saturday, we still might be in," he said. Huskies earn a spot in playoffs with win over Selah Prior to the high-pressure week, Garza said his team needed to come out with five wins in order to stamp a ticket to the district playoffs. After breaking even, Othello had to get a win at Selah April 27 to keep their hopes for playoffs alive and the team came out with a narrow 1-0 win to do exactly that. "I said a couple games ago that five (wins) would be the magic number," Garza said. "We lost to Toppenish, so we had to win the next two and it seemed like an uphill battle ... but they did what they needed to do." The Huskies had to contend with an aggressive Selah team and some high-powered winds but with the playoffs just barely in reach, overcame both to finish the regular season with a 5-4 league record. This was the first time in quite a few seasons that Othello had to really struggle to make playoffs and Garza said these last two wins show an impressive amount of determination from his squad. "I told them 'if we lose this game, we're done and you guys have to play with pride' and they did," he said. "We're on a roll. We've got two wins and now we're 0-0 - it's a new season." The only goal came in the 64th minute when Martinez sent a pass to Quiroz to set up a one-on-one situation with Selah's keeper. Quiroz drew the goalie out of the box, juked him and chipped it over his head for the score. "He did good because he pulled him away from his goal," Garza said. "(Quiroz) chipped it over and it was a good goal." Othello's defense switched things up a bit and instead of trying to gain possession of the ball and making passes, just decided to kick it away and keep Selah's midfielders and forwards scrambling backward to regain possession. Selah also had a talented player in Eliseo Montiel, but Garza said senior defender Trevor Walker did a good job of containing him all game and allowed him to get only one shot off, which was saved by Angel Rangel. As of press time, Othello's opponent and the location of the game is still up in the air, but the loser-out round is set for Saturday starting at 1 p.m. Garza said he would use the week to mentally prepare his team and allow them to heal their injuries. Garza said he and the team are just happy to be able to squeeze their way into the playoff picture. "The only bad part is we're away but, right now, we'll take whatever," he said. "We're not going to complain."